Saturday, March 21, 2015

Inching into Spring

In February, I went to hear Kate DiCamillo speak. I'd been looking forward to the evening, but I enjoyed it even more than I'd imagined. Ms. DiCamillo is such a down to earth, real person. Seeing this and feeling like there are so many things I--we all--have in common with her, a Newbery Award-winning author, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature...it feeds something, like hope, or validation, or a combination of the many little-but-important things that can make us feel weak or strong as writers on a given day. Also, I like the way she talks, and when she read the opening of BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, my heart welled up like the Grinch's in reverse. It was a perfect moment.



I bought a copy of FLORA & ULYSSES for her to autograph. I went with friends Suzanne Selfors and Lynn Brunelle, which made it extra special.

left to right: Kate DiCamillo, me, Lynn Brunelle

Last week, my family bought chicks for our first time. They're so dang cute! We'll end up with seven chickens, once we pick up three more next week. We selected breeds we thought we'd like, and we wanted to have a variety of colors and personalities to keep things interesting. Eventually, we'll get fresh eggs with shells that are white, brown, and blue or green. Good to know that if there's a zombie apocalypse, we're good on eggs.

Other than that, no real news. I'm just bumping along, happily writing. This draft will take me a while, but I'm enjoying the process and the progress. I love this time of year, anyway, with Seattle getting a teeny bit more sunlight with each day. Love it!

Here are a few chick pictures. You'll see my friend Julie in one. Happy spring!






Sunday, February 8, 2015

BUNNIES!!!

On January 28, I went to Kevan Atteberry's book launch party for BUNNIES!!! It was great!

A huge crowd showed up at University Book Store for the event. Kevan read the story twice, the way one might with children, so all could anticipate the words and rhythm. Kids in the audience got into it, which was really fun. BUNNIES!!! is silly and sweet, and it's sure to cause giggles and smiles in children. And adults.

I had my picture taken with Kevan before the reading, and I got a bunny hug!



Kevan is uber-talented, and he's an incredibly nice person. I have a tremendous respect for him, personally and professionally, and I'm quite certain everyone who knows him feels the same way. Seriously. He's that good of a guy. And while I think he can probably draw anything, he has a special fondness for lovable monsters. The main character in BUNNIES!!! is Declan, a friendly monster with a pom-pom tail. He stands behind a tree on the cover, but there's no hiding how adorable he is.


BUNNIES!!! by Kevan Atteberry
Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

There were carrots and other bunny-friendly foods at the party, and also a beautiful cake! Here's Kevan with the cake. Don't you love the ears?



It's wonderful when hard-working, talented writers and illustrators succeed. When it's someone with a ginormous heart--someone who does so much to help other people--it's the best. Yay for Kevan and BUNNIES!!!

* * *
*This is the post I wrote about the time Kevan gave my daughter a special drawing.

*Here is a link to Kevan's books.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cover reveal: 52 LIKES by Medeia Sharif

I'm excited to be a part of author Medeia Sharif''s latest cover reveal.

Are you ready?

Here it is!

52 LIKES by Medeia Sharif
Release date: January 16, 2015


Such a cool cover! Here's the blurb:

After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. She's plagued by not knowing the identity of her rapist and by the nasty rumors in school about that night. Valerie follows clues from ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site--why do all of their eerie photographs have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he'll put up a fight to remain hidden.

Sounds like a great read--very suspenseful!

Most of you probably already know Medeia. She supports so many bloggers by reviewing their books and visiting their blogs. I was lucky to meet Medeia at one of the SCBWI summer conferences in L.A., which was so much fun. She's super nice!

Congrats to you, Medeia! You work hard, and it's inspiring to see you succeed!


Find Medeia -- YA and MG Author

Blog   -   Twitter   -   Goodreads   -   Instagram   -   Amazon  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Learning from other writers

Lately, I've been revising one of my close-but-no-cigar projects, one of two manuscripts that made me a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest, earned me compliments and page requests, and seemed bound to be a book (pun intended).

An agent I met at a manuscript consultation told me he felt this project should really be middle-grade and not YA. I wasn't sure at first. I let his words simmer, played with the manuscript both ways, and kept moving it in and out of the drawer, working on it around other manuscripts. I realized the agent was right, it would be better as a middle-grade novel. I believe in this project, and it still excites me. Now, of course, I have a massive revision on my hands. In some ways, though, it's more like a first draft rather than a revision.

This brings me to today's topic: learning from other writers. This is what we do, right? As we work to improve our own novels, reading published books can be lessons in craft. For example, reading books by some authors inspires me to work harder on my descriptions or setting, and reading the work of others helps juice up my voice. These days I've been thinking quite a bit about pacing in my writing, so that seems to be what I've been appreciating in my reading as well.

CRESS by Marissa Meyer
(Feiwel & Friends, February 2014)

I'm currently flying through CRESS by Marissa Meyer. CRESS is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and it is such a fun series! The fourth book, FAIREST: LEVANA'S STORY, comes out January 27, 2015. I can't wait!

FAIREST: LEVANA'S STORY
(Feiwel & Friends, January 2015)

Here is the summary of CINDER, the first book in the series. The link will also give you a peek at the opening. Warning: the series is completely addictive. What makes this extra cool is the author's super nice. In 2012, Marissa Meyer kindly granted me an interview for an article I was writing for a local library. There's no direct link to the article; otherwise, I'd share it here.

I love so much about this series. One thing that impresses me a ton is the pacing in each book. The author's world building is fabulous, but none of the details weigh down the story. Marissa Meyer has mastered pacing.


WILD by Cheryl Strayed
(Knopf, March 2012)

Another book I'd like to mention is WILD: FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL. It's a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. Most of what I read and blog about is YA or MG. While this is neither, I recommend it. Here is the summary.

I first heard about WILD when Reese Witherspoon was filming the movie down in Oregon, and, as a Reese Witherspoon fan, I planned to see it. (Confession: every time I watch SWEET HOME ALABAMA, I want to get my hair cut like her character's--and I have at least twice.) I didn't plan to read the book until I heard people talking about it, saying it was excellent. The power of word of mouth! Suddenly, I needed to read it right before the movie came out on December 3. But then I never saw the movie. Go figure. If you've seen it and you think I should, let me know in the comments! Also, with all this talk of pacing, I should probably note that cutting this paragraph would help the pacing of this post. Hee!

Back to my thoughts on the book! Strayed's descriptions are beautiful, and the setting is alive and vivid. Her raw emotions make her story feel honest, and one can't help rooting for and worrying about her. Since her journey is physically and emotionally an epic one, it's the perfect set up for a good story. It's a unique and compelling read. WILD is an interesting, heart-touching story that's well-told.

Something I admire as a writer: Though her trek is long and arduous, the story doesn't drag. The book's a page-turner. When Strayed flashes from the trail to memories, it adds depth to the story and also gives the reader a change of setting. It allows the reader to read dialogue rather than forcing him or her to stay in the protagonist's head for too long, which--in my opinion--improves the pacing.

Have you read any of the Lunar Chronicles or WILD? Which authors have been wowing you the most lately? Has any actor or actress ever inspired you to change your hair? Also, should I see WILD?

Happy 2015! 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY

I heard Erik Larson speak years ago (2003? 2004?) when one of his books had just come out, and his talk stuck with me. I'd never heard of a book like his, and I was blown away by the amount of research he'd done. The book: THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: MURDER, MAGIC, AND MADNESS AT THE FAIR THAT CHANGED AMERICA.


Larson focuses his story on the main architect of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the serial killer who capitalized on the crowds brought by the fair. Creepy premise, right? Here's where you need to hang on to your corsets: the story is nonfiction!

My daughter, a college student, has always loved nonfiction, and I told her about DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY last year, before I'd even read it--as I said, Erik Larson's talk stuck with me. She read the book and told me I had to read it.

I'm so glad I did!

The 1893 World's Fair comes to life in Larson's book. His meticulous research tells of late 19th century Chicago, bringing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the time to the page. He captures the people of the era--their hopes, fears, concerns, and realities--zooming in on two unique men whose lives unexpectedly intertwine. Larson weaves all of his facts into a beautifully crafted story. It might be described as "real history meets CSI," and it's fascinating.

I finished reading the book in early September, but I keep thinking about it. Much like Larson's talk, his book seems to be sticking with me.

* * *

More about DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY:

The book won an Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime, and it was a National Book Award Finalist. Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the rights to turn the story into a feature film, and he plans to play Dr. H. H. Holmes, the serial killer.

"A wonderfully unexpected book... Larson is a historian... with a novelist's soul."
--Chicago Sun-Times Review

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Have you read any outstanding books lately, specifically something outside the genre in which you write?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It takes a village to raise a writer

What a week! Critique partners Faith Pray and Jennifer Mann each gave me beautiful direction, for which I'm grateful, early in the week. Thursday night, I zipped over to Seattle Pacific University where Writers House agent Brianne Johnson kicked off the first of this season's SCBWI Western Washington Professional Series Meetings. She returned Friday for manuscript consultations and a delicious, detail-rich talk about writing middle-grade novels. Then, as if my brain wasn't full enough, Field's End hosted bestselling author Ann Hood who shared concrete revision tips at her Saturday lecture, titled "How to be Your Own Best Editor."

Now I need to process and start mining it all as I dig back into my manuscript. I am fired up, bloggy friends! Time to write!

How about you? Has a critique partner, a class, a conference, a workshop, or a book on craft recently given you major help or inspiration? Do tell! Feel free to give a shout-out to your critique partners!


*I should note that if you ever have the opportunity to hear either Brianne Johnson or Ann Hood speak, leap on it!

Monday, September 29, 2014

So you want to be a racehorse--or an author



A weekend trip to Emerald Downs with my husband and my dad made me come to an odd conclusion: the advice one might give to a racehorse (in bold below) can also be applied to writers. Really! I know it sounds more than a little weird, but just go with it.



Take your training seriously. Practice, practice, practice.
Respect craft, and do whatever you can to get your writing to the next level. Take classes, go to conferences, and write, whether you feel your muse or not. Keep office hours.


Figure out how you can eliminate distractions. Some horses use blinkers (blinders) to help with focus.
If the Internet is a problem for you, limit how often you check e-mail, Facebook, etc. I usually write at home, but I'll work in a coffee shop if I'm getting distracted by a home to-do list or if I feel working elsewhere will help me make the most of my writing time.

Don't feel bad about being a long shot.
Remember J.K. Rowling wasn't always a sure thing.


If you see someone else's tail in front of you, you're following instead of leading.
Don't chase trends. By the time it's clear that something is a trend, it's probably too late to start writing about it.

Don't put yourself out to pasture too early.
Never give up.


If you don't run the race, you can't win the race.
Again, never give up. Keep trying!

Cross your hooves that you'll get a good position in the gate so you can come out strong.
Timing can be a b*tch. Sometimes it seems everyone came up with the same idea you did. It's not fun when this happens, but try to remember that no writing is wasted. The market is cyclical, and you can put your manuscript in the drawer for the future. Otherwise, you can use parts of it for other stories or consider it extra practice. Trust me when I say I know this is easier said than done.


Don't eat moldy carrots, and remember that grains help keep you regular.
Just saying.

Polish your horseshoes.
You never know when you'll get a bit of unexpected luck.


Establish a good track record.
Be professional.

Experiment to figure out your strengths.
Just as some horses do better in long races than short ones, some writers are better at novels instead of picture books. Also, while horses handle various track conditions, writers can play with genre.


Remember your inner-filly to tap into her wild spirit.
If you write for young people, think about what it felt like to be one rather than writing from your grown-up perspective. Also, try to recall what you were reading when you figured out you were a writer. I was reading books by E. B. White and Beverly Cleary. By age eleven, I was hooked on Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, which you may have guessed. These same books still light a fire for me. 

Work with the best trainers and jockeys that you can.
Join SCBWI if you write for children or young adults to learn from the pros.



Keep smiling, and don't be a naysayer--or neighsayer--unless you're a horse, of course!